E-News from the Office of Senator Van de Putte
We are nearing the end of the legislative session and I have several bills, on which I would like to update you.
Child Product Safety Act (CSSB 972)
Most parents believe that someone is making sure the products they are buying for their children are safe, but unfortunately that is not always the case. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in 2005, an estimated 60,000 children under age four were injured and 61 were killed due to dangerous children's products.
Children's products are recalled on an average of twice per week and constitute more than half of all products recalled by the CPSC, yet research shows that recall information is not reaching consumers in an effective manner. When a recall occurs, the CPSC alerts the media, yet no further action may be taken to ensure the discontinued use of the product. This means that dangerous children's products can unknowingly be in homes or childcare facilities.
The Children's Product Safety Act will provide information to the consumer as to recalled products by requiring the Department of State Health Services to post recall information on public websites. It also prohibits the resale or lease of dangerous children's products or their use in licensed child care facilities and regulates sales of products that are designed principally for the care of, or use by, children under eight years of age. This Act is needed to strengthen the children's product safety system and to protect children from preventable injury and death.
The legislature has been working on efforts to reform the Texas Youth Commission, in response to the many horrible sexual allegations that have been brought against employees of the facility. I am shocked and sickened by these alleged acts and I assure you that my colleagues and I are doing all we can to rectify this terrible situation.
SB 103 by Senator Hinojosa, which aims to reform the juvenile justice system, was passed unanimously out of the Senate last week. The bill requires new measures including increasing rehabilitation and treatment programs, providing reintegration programs for incarcerated youth, increasing training for employees, creating a parent's bill of rights and appointing an independent ombudsman.
The legislature is taking every opportunity to reform this system and ensure that such alleged abuses never take place again.
Top Ten Percent Rule
The top ten percent rule, in which seniors in the top ten percent of their graduating class can gain automatic admission to any Texas university of their choice, has worked well to ensure the continuing diversity of students, and it is crucial that it be protected.
Those traditionally under-represented among the student population in our universities depend on it, including minorities, rural Texans and first-generation college students. Studies have shown that once admitted, those students do very well, graduating at a high rate.
It is time to preserve the top ten percent rule for all time. That is why I and many other Senate Democrats are supporting crucial adjustments to the policy, so that Texas' most talented students can continue to benefit from the rule, and Texas' university systems can adjust and manage growth and admissions.
The changes, designed to protect the program, include capping top ten admissions to 60% of a campus' total admissions, exempting those students from tuition and fees, increasing financial aid set-asides, and continuing to ensure that any top ten student will still be eligible to attend a Texas public university.
Human Trafficking Legislation
The IH-10 corridor, from El Paso to Houston has been designated as one of the major trafficking routes in the country. This legislative session I have filed a package of bills aimed at combating human trafficking and aiding victims.
Texas is a major hub for human trafficking. Every year, thousands of children, women and men are forced into the labor or sex trade industry. Under current Texas law, the state is unable to successfully prosecute offenders of human trafficking and many of the victims are largely unaware of how they can get help.
This package of bills is targeted at getting indentured servants the resources they need to start rebuilding their lives and putting their offenders behind bars. Several of the bills have already passed the Senate and I would like to highlight these for you
SB 1287 urges businesses to aid in raising community awareness on the human trafficking epidemic by requiring bars and alcohol-licensed establishments to post a hotline number and a notice to the offense of human trafficking.
SB 1283 clarifies the legal definition of human trafficking in the state of Texas and it requires the Health and Human Services Commission along with the Attorney General to conduct an evaluation on the social services provided for victims of human trafficking. The bill also includes outreach provisions that would require certain lodging establishments to post a hotline number and a notice to the offense of human trafficking in all their guest bedrooms.
SB 1285 mandates that peace officers receive a one-time educational training to familiarize them with the state's laws on human trafficking, and have voluntary advanced training available thereafter. It is critical that our officers know how to use our trafficking laws to issue warrants and detain individuals suspected, caught or attempting to traffick people on such grounds.
I truly believe that we are not defenseless in the struggle to end the exploitation of children and vulnerable adults and that is why I am taking a stand for those who are being exploited. Individuals who exploit others for their own benefit are engaging in a deplorable crime, and as a state we cannot stand for it.
I will continue to keep you updated the remainder of the legislative session. Please contact my office with any questions or concerns. I am here representing you!
HOW TO CONTACT SENATOR VAN DE PUTTE
700 N. St. Mary's St. #1725
San Antonio, Texas 78205
(210) 733-6605 - fax